SYNOPSIS: (Be warned — Some spoilers from Book 1: I am not a Serial Killer up ahead) After killing a demon who kills people for parts in the first installment, life in Clayton County has returned to normal for teenage sociopath John Wayne Cleaver. But after unleashing his alter ego Mr. Monster to slay the Clayton killer, he finds that his dark half isn’t as easy to contain as before. His mom tries to help him out by trying to keep him from thinking negative thoughts but instead of calming him down, her efforts irk him further. He finally finds a distraction when a new serial killer rolls into town, seeming to call out John himself, and he finds himself pushed to his limits — forced to pit his baser nature against what he believes is the right thing to do as he faces off with a new demon, one more sinister than the last.
I devoured Dan Wells’ I am a Serial Killer in half a day and finished the sequel in pretty much the same time. I must state for the record that while I enjoyed the first book immensely, I was a little on the fence about injecting the supernatural element into it. Halfway into reading the second book however, I realized that I have gotten used to the fantasy elements and they already felt familiar so I was more open and accepting to the idea this time around.
Dan Wells is a great writer, and in Mr. Monster, he speaks from John’s voice so well — communicating his feelings, his frustrations, his inner conflicts and his genuine effort to be normal that readers’ hearts simply go out to this series’ unlikely protagonist. Its true that the pyromania, deliberately hurting animals and the thirst for violence were truly disturbing aspects of John’s character but readers pretty much know what they signed up for if they read the first book, or picked up one with the title Mr. Monster. The first book was more of an analysis of John’s sociopathy, but in this sequel, his dysfunction has grown much worse — he understands himself and his tendencies better and the struggle is much more complicated now that he is in the throes of adolescence, further complicated by the fact that the subject of his violent fantasies is Brooke, the girl he likes — the same one his mother keeps on pushing at him. The manner in which John processes regular stuff that happens on dates is both hilarious and scary, but it successfully illustrates how inept he is at normalcy and makes sense of his different way of thinking.
As a matter of fact, Wells does such a good job of describing John’s inner struggle (in his personal life) and obsession with the new killer’s MO that when the culprit is finally revealed, readers feel like a rug is pulled from under them because they never see it coming.
And while John’s close call with his demon neighbor was enough of a nail biter, in Mr. Monster, Wells puts him right in the middle of the action — in the face of his inner demons, held captive, pressed for time, with another demon pushing his buttons, challenging him to take the final step and become a demon himself. Suffice to say that what happens in the culprit’s basement is not for the weak of stomach as Wells paints such a vivid picture of torture, and the results of the culprit’s ruthlessness when the bodies are found. It reads like an episode of Born to Kill of Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer. Its truly disturbing.
What’s really great about this book is the narration — they are so expressive that readers feel the suspense of every moment, the feel of captivity, the imminent threat and the spark of hope. Yet, at the same time, it didn’t give everything away.There were still a lot of questions that could fuel the sequels and its pretty evident that John has still a long way to go before he embraces himself fully — both his light and dark side.
All in all, Mr. Monster is much more brutal, much more raw, much more graphic and leagues darker than the first book, mainly because the villain this time, is pure evil. While John flexes his muscles at using his dysfunction for good, its interesting to see his growing skills evolving along with much more complicated nemesis. It gets pretty exciting to watch John go against meaner and more powerful enemies with each book. Of course, for a sociopath (even one who is trying his best to be a good guy), not everything will turn up roses and John does get his fair share of setbacks but his victories far outweigh his losses. While ideally, John would somehow develop empathy as his story progresses, as a sociopath, its very unrealistic. Still, here’s to hoping that he will succeed in being the good guy. His last statement to another demon makes me hopeful: ‘I’m the demonslayer.Come and get me.” The third book is bound to be epic at this rate.